A wooden boat carrying dozens of Rohingya Muslim migrants capsizes off Indonesia's coast

A wooden boat carrying dozens of Rohingya Muslims capsized off Indonesia’s northernmost coast

Published - March 20, 2024 10:46 pm IST - BANDA ACEH, Indonesia

Ethnic Rohingya people rescued from their capsized boat rest at a local government building in Samatiga, Aceh province, Indonesia, on March 20, 2024.

Ethnic Rohingya people rescued from their capsized boat rest at a local government building in Samatiga, Aceh province, Indonesia, on March 20, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

A wooden boat carrying dozens of Rohingya Muslims capsized off Indonesia’s northernmost coast on Wednesday. Local fishermen rescued six refugees who said more people were still on the boat.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Also read: For Rohingya, there is no place called home

The survivors, four women and two men, were moved to a temporary shelter in the Samatiga sub-district. The fishermen and the survivors told The Associated Press the boat capsized about 16 miles (25 Kilometers) from the coastline of Kuala Bubon Beach in Aceh province.

Amiruddin, a tribal fishing community leader in Aceh Barat district, said the survivors indicated that the boat was sailing east when it started leaking and then strong currents pushed it toward the west of Aceh. They also told the locals that several women and children were still trying to survive on the capsized craft.

About 740,000 Rohingya were resettled in Bangladesh to escape the brutal counterinsurgency campaign by security forces in their homeland of Myanmar.

The petition challenging Rohingya refugees’ ‘illegal detention’ in India | Explained

Thousands have been trying to flee overcrowded camps in Bangladesh to neighboring countries with Indonesia seeing a spike in refugee numbers since November which prompted it to call on the international community for help. Rohingya arriving in Aceh face some hostility from some fellow Muslims.

Indonesia, like Thailand and Malaysia, is not a signatory to the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention outlining their legal protections, and so is not obligated to accept them. However, they have so far provided temporary shelter to refugees in distress.

Last year, nearly 4,500 Rohingya — two-thirds of them women and children — fled their homeland of Myanmar and the refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh by boat, the United Nations refugee agency reported. Of those, 569 died or went missing while crossing the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, the highest death toll since 2014.

Returning safely to Myanmar is virtually impossible because the military that attacked them overthrew Myanmar’s democratically elected government in 2021. No country has offered them any large-scale resettlement opportunities.

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